Tag Archives: mobiles

Sexual harassment though mobile devices in the Caribbean

St Lucia smallMy earlier research with colleagues in Islamabad indicated very high levels of sexual harassment in Pakistan using mobile phones, both in traditional ways for calls and texts, and also through access to online social media.  Evidence from other parts of the world also suggests that similar high levels are to be found in many countries with different cultural backgrounds and social structures,  However, there have been very few cross-cultural comparisons using the same methodology.  Together with Dr. Bushra Hassan from Pakistan, we are therefore using a similar online survey instrument to explore perceptions and experiences of the use of mobile devices in the Caribbean and in India (Hindi; English).

Digicel 3

Despite the support of more than 50 organisations and individuals across the Caribbean, for which many thanks are due, responses to the survey have been lower than we had hoped.  However, we are reporting our preliminary findings here in part to encourage further responses to the survey that will then enable us to undertake a more rigorous statistical analysis of the data.

Key findings include the following:

Perceptions of sexual harassment through mobile devices in the Caribbean

  • More than half of the sample think that all types of harassment are common in the Caribbean.  Sexual harassment, though, is the most common type of harassment, and 47% of the sample considered it to be very frequent
  • Women are perceived to be harassed much more than men, although men are also harassed; 46% of the sample considered that women were very frequently harassed through their mobile devices.
  • The most common reasons for sexual harassment are considered to be because social factors encourage it and it is a way of controlling someone
  • Messaging apps and social media are perceived as being the main ways through which people are sexually harassed through their mobile devices, although phone calls and text messages are also common.
  • A wide range of people are seen as  being responsible for sexual harassment, including strangers and people in positions of responsibility.  However, the most common perpetrators are perceived as being a former partner, someone known to the person other than a family member, and a current partner.
  •  In the Caribbean, when a man is sexually harassed 40% of the sample think a women is usually to blame, and 36% think a man is usually to blame.  When a woman is sexually harassed, 74% of respondents thought that a man was usually to blame and 36% thought another woman was usually to blame.  A major difference between Pakistan and the Caribbean is that when a woman was harassed through her mobile device in Pakistan, 54% of the sample thought that she was sometimes or always to blame, whereas only 29% of the Caribbean sample thought that the woman being harassed was to blame.
  • Another striking difference between Pakistan and the Caribbean was in the impact of such harassment.  In the Caribbean, 62% of the sample claimed to know someone who had suffered depression as a result of sexual harassment through a mobile device, but only 13% knew someone who had committed suicide, and only 2% someone who had been killed because of honour.  In Pakistan 53% of respondents claimed that they knew someone personally who had tried to commit suicide as a result of sexual harassment through their mobile devices, and a shocking 52% of respondents claimed to know someone who had been killed because of a loss of honour as a result of sexual harassment through mobile devices.

Experiences of sexual harassment through mobile devices in the Caribbean

  • Around 44% of the Caribbean sample said that they had been sexually harassed through their mobile devices (and 92% of these were women), and their experiences were rather different from the perceptions of harassment noted above.
  • In reality only 27% of these people were harassed frequently or very frequently by a former partner, whereas 42% were frequently or very frequently harassed by someone known to them other than a family member, and 46% frequently or very frequently by a stranger.
  • It is also interesting that many people keep silent about their harassment; 43% sometimes or always keep silent.  When they do tell people about it, it is nearly always with friends rather than family or people in authority.
  • Interestingly, respondents who had been sexually harassed in the Caribbean seemed to have more robust reactions than did those in Pakistan, who often felt guilty or ashamed.  In the Caribbean, 67% said that they had never felt guilty, but 60% said that that sometimes or always felt stressed by it, 76% said that they sometimes or always felt angry, and 71% sometimes or always developed mistrust of others
  • There were fascinating and contrasting views about whether sexual harassment was worse when done in person or through a mobile device.  Two examples of comments from respondents reflect this difference:
    • “Being harassed through my mobile devices is worse in my experience because it has always been by people that I know. Harassment from a stranger has never hurt as much or made me as fearful as harassment from people that I know. The harassment that I have experienced via mobile devices has also been much more explicit and violent than what I have experienced in other ways”.
    • “I feel worse when the sexual harassment is done in person. Mobile I can hide and ignore, while in person I feel stripped and ashamed and uncomfortable and become self conscious”

Lime-2These are some of the headline findings of our research, but we need many more responses to be able to undertake appropriate statistical analysis of the results that will help us to dig beneath the surface and explain why some of these patterns exist.  The highest levels of responses have been from Guyana, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, and so we would particularly encourage responses from other parts of the region.  We are also very aware that mobile devices are just one of the ways through which sexual harassment exists.  However, it is an additional and very prevalent means, and we need to be aware of the extent that it is used to cause misery and oppression.

If you have not already done so, please complete the survey at https://rhul.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/sexual-harassment-through-mobiles-in-the-caribbean and encourage others to do so as well.  Thanks very much!

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Filed under Caribbean, ICT4D, Inequality, mobile phones, Sexual harassment, social media

Perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment through mobile devices in Pakistan

Together with Dr. Bushra Hassan, and building on my research earlier this year on how people in Pakistan use mobile devices to express their identities, we have developed a survey on people’s perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment through mobile devices in the country.  This is a sensitive and difficult subject, and we are eager to have responses from as many people as possible.  I do hope that readers of this post will share the details through their networks, and if they are Pakistani will complete it themselves. The survey is available until the end of November 2016 at https://rhul.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/sexual-harassment-through-mobile-devices-in-pakistan.


Thanks so much in anticipation.

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Filed under 'phones, Ethics, ICT4D, Inequality, Pakistan

Thoughts on mobile learning for the EFA GMR 2015

GMRI was delighted to have been asked by UNESCO to write an overview of the evolution of mobile devices and their uses in learning (m-learning), focusing especially on the fifteen-year period of the first Millennium Development Goals, as a background paper for the 2015 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, and it is great that this has now been published.

I thought it might be useful to summarise some of the key points here. The paper highlights eight emerging good practices, and six significant policy implications. The emerging good practices are:

  • Focusing on learning outcomes not technology
  • Involving teachers and users at all stages from design to implementation and review
  • Involve participatory approaches in design so as to ensure that adoption of technology is user-centric
  • Consider sustainability, maintenance and financing right at the beginning
  • Think holistically and systemically
  • Ensure that all relevant government departments are involved
  • Ensure equality of access to all learners, especially those who are marginalised
  • Appropriate and rigorous monitoring and evaluation must be in place

The policy implications identified are closely linked to these and can be summarised as:

  • Joined up approaches across Governments
  • Sharing of effective and rigorous monitoring and evaluation findings
  • Ensuring affordability
  • Providing connectivity
  • Effective multi-stakeholder partnerships
  • Development of relevant content

Four case studies drawn from different parts of the world and at different scales were used to illustrate the considerable success that can be achieved through m-learning. These were:

  • BBC Janala in Bangladesh;
  • Red UnX: a mobile learning community for entrepreneurship in Latin America;
  • Learning on the Move in Singapore; and
  • Worldreader: making books available to primary school children in low-income countries

However, the paper also illustrates clearly that unless very considerable efforts are made to ensure that the poorest and most marginalised people and communities have access to appropriate devices, connectivity and electricity, any increased attention on digital technologies is likely to increase inequalities rather than reduce them.

It concludes that to date, great strides have been made in using the very rapid expansion of mobile devices for the benefit of education, and for those companies involved in exploiting this. However, as a review of delivery on the past EFA goals and MDGs, it is apparent that much remains to be done in using such devices to help achieve universal primary education and gender equality in education.  Looking to the future, as more and more people gain possession of, or access to, mobile devices, they will have the opportunity to use the Internet to access an ever more innovative array of learning tools and content. The challenge, particularly for governments, is how to pay for and use this potential to enable universal access, and thus equality of opportunity within the education sector. Given the central role of teachers and administrators within education, an important concluding recommendation is that much more attention should be paid to providing training, resources and support to them in the use of mobile devices. A well-equipped, knowledgeable and inspired cadre of teachers, capable of using mobile ‘phones effectively in their classes, is a crucial first-step towards delivering m-learning for all. Sadly, all too often, even in the richest countries of the world, children are told to switch off their mobile ‘phones before entering the classroom. M-learning has much potential, but we are still a long way from using it to benefit the world’s poorest and most marginalised.

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Filed under 'phones, Development, Education, ICT4D

Mobiles, Social Media and Democracy

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) and the ICT4D Collective and UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London convened a session on Mobiles, Social Media and Democracy (#SocMed4Dem) on 15th March at the ICTD2012 conference hosted by Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

This began with a debate on the motion that This house believes that the use of mobile supported social media is an effective means of promoting democracy.  Breakfast planning, led to a slight change of schedule!  So, the session began with Mario Maniewicz (Chief of Department, Enabling Environment and E-applications, ITU) providing an overview of some of the issues surrounding this complex subject.  Then the debate began in earnest.  Katrin Verclas (Co-Founder and Editor of MobileActive.org) set the ball rolling arguing vehemently in favour of the motion, to be followed by a sound rebuttal by Adam Salkeld (Head of Programme, Tinopolis).  Then the real challenge – both for me and the audience!  To balance things up, I filled in the gap by seconding the motion in favour – even though I would have preferred to speak against the motion.  Half way through, when I was arguing that anarchy is the only true form of democracy, I suddenly realised that one might say things that one does not necessarily actually mean when one is debating.  My short intervention should have had a health warning!  And the debate concluded with a brilliant tour-de-force by Alan Fisher (Senior Correspondent, Washington DC, al Jazeera).  After numerous interventions from the floor, the final vote (including contributions by Tweets) was 21 in favour and 19 against!  Thanks to Caitlin Bentley so much for video streaming the debate and managing the Twitter feed!

After the ‘refreshments’ break, we broke up into small discussion groups, each chaired by one of the speakers, to explore the policy implications of four of the most important themes to emerge from the debate: access (chaired by Mario), privacy and security (chaired by Katrin), the relevance of historical sociology of technology and democracy (chaired by Adam), and ICTs against democracy: the ‘dark side’ (chaired by Alan).

The mind map below provides a summary of the fascinating discussions as presented in the final closing plenary.

Click on the image for a large sized (readable) version!

Video of the debate

Caitlin Bentley has compiled a ‘story’ of the #SocMed4Dem debate at #ICTD2012 at http://storify.com/cbentl2/mobiles-social-media-and-democracy

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Findings from research on mobile use amongst marginalised groups in China

I spent five weeks this summer undertaking research in Beijing and Gansu thanks to a UK-China Fellowship for Excellence from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  The central purpose of my research was to explore the information and communication needs of poor and marginalised communities, especially people with disabilities (in Beijing) and farmers in rural areas (in Gansu Province).  I learnt so much – and probably more from the informal discussions than I did from the  focus groups and interviews that I conducted!  Many thanks are due to Professor Ding Wenguang and Chen Fei for all of their help and assistance in arranging meetings, and translating our dialogues.

The premises underlying my research were that:

  • all too often, new software and hardware are designed for the mass market, and then need to be ‘adapted’ to suit the ‘needs’ of poor and marginalised people
  • frequently, well-intentioned new technologies are developed in some of the richer parts of the world and then ‘applied’ in poorer countries; researchers are then surprised that there is little take up for their products
  • hence, we still need to get a much better understanding of the needs of these communities, and focus much more on designing technologies explicitly with their interests in mind
  • China has 18% of the world’s population, and so the market size of marginalised communities makes it worth developing products commercially for them

The resultant data are so rich that it is difficult to summarise them in detail.  However, the following seem particularly pertinent

Rural areas

  • The diversity of people and communities in rural areas of China is replicated in a diversity of needs.  ‘One size fits all’ solutions are not appropriate, yet the size of the market for particular groups is nevertheless very large given China’s overall population
  • Almost everyone already has at least one mobile ‘phone – mobiles are already widely used for information and communication, even for Internet access.  There are real implications for Africa – if electricity and connectivity can be provided
  • Economic information is particularly desired – especially on such things as agricultural input prices and market prices – particularly by men.  I was surprised at how dominant and significant this was.
  • There seem to be important gender differences in usage – women placed greater emphasis on social communication and health information; young male migrant workers in contrast seemed dominated by a desire to use mobile broadband to meet with girls.
  • Value for money is important – c. RMB 2-3 per month is all that most people are willing to pay for subscription services
  • Trust of source of information is also very important – there seems to be a lot of bogus messaging – and differing views as to what kind of organisation was most trustworthy.
  • There is real potential for village level training in effective use of mobiles – especially by women for women
  • For many users, the existing functionality of mobiles is more than they can cope with


  • There is huge potential for innovative hardware and software solutions – many interesting ideas were proposed
  • There is therefore a large opportunity for sharing good global practice with colleagues in China in the use of ICTs for people with disabilities in China
  • Information about location and direction is crucial for blind people – we need to think more innovatively about how to deliver on this
  • Screen size and configuration (not touch screen) are very important for blind people – Blackberry wins out over iPhones here!
  • There is an enormous opportunity for audio books (not only for blind people). Perhaps a civil society organisation could develop this, and even market audio books to generate income.
  • Security code challenges are important for blind people
  • Shopping information – much potential for RFID and 2D bar codes for blind people.
  • A powerful text scanner and reader in a mobile phone for blind people would be useful
  • Visualisation and touch/vibration of sound could also be developed further

There is a huge agenda ahead, and I am enthusiastic about ways in which we can encourage delivery on some of these exciting opportunities.  Thanks so much to BIS, Lanzhou University and Peking University for supporting this research, and to all those who contributed through their wisdom and hospitality


Filed under 'phones, China, ICT4D

Social networks, digital technologies and political change in North Africa

Much has been written about the potential of new ICTs, and particularly mobile technologies and social networking software, to transform political and social systems.  A fundamental question that underlies all work in ICT4D is whether new ICTs can indeed be used by the poor to overthrow oppressive regimes, or whether, like other technologies before them, ICTs are used primarily by the rich and powerful to maintain their positions of power.  Until very recently, it seemed that despite the potential of ICTs to undermine dominant political structures, most attempts to do so have been ruthlessly crushed.  The ruling regime in Iran was thus able to suppress the ‘Twitter Revolution’ of 2009-10, and the Burmese government likewise maintained its grip on power despite extensive use of mobile ‘phones and the Internet during protests in 2007.

Recent events in North Africa, with the overthrow of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and the continuing protests against President Mubarak in Egypt, have widely been attributed in considerable part to the agency of mobile ‘phones and the use of social networking environments over the Internet.  Whilst it is too early fully to judge their importance in fueling such political protests, the following reports provide evidence in support of such claims:



Wider ramifications

Much research needs to be undertaken on the real role of ICTs in these ongoing political processes.  What seems apparent, though, is that many participants do indeed believe that these technologies are helping them achieve their objectives.


Filed under 'phones, Accessibility, Africa, Development, Ethics, Social Networking

ICTs and Development: workshop at IIT Delhi (Day 2)

Welcome back to the second day of the ICTs and development workshop at IIT Delhi.

We got underway with Jonathan Donner’s (Microsoft Research India) invited lead talk on The changing roles of mobile phones in development: some examples from Africa

  • Emphasised amazing growth of mobile ‘phones – but rightly noted that this is neither universal not homogenous
  • We need to focus on the people rather than the technology – M4D is the tip of an iceberg of uses that people make of mobile ‘phones
  • Uses of mobiles for agriculture: use of mobiles for ‘traditional’ extension; creating platform mobile services including new market systems such as Manobi, or lean market places such as Google Trader
  • Homegrown services: M-PESA and MXIT – low barriers to adoption, affordable and compelling relative to existing alternatives, woven into everyday life, network effects.  They do well because they are so simple.
  • Both of these offer real possibilities for scale – albeit not yet for the poorest of the poor – and do things that traditional voice cannot do
  • Importance of unintended consequences
  • We need more evidence; we need to distinguish between mobility and connectivity; and we need to take the long view
  • We should also resist the use of “M4D” as a research term so as to de-fetishise it – moving the emphasis to the people not the technology; if we keep the term, we need to focus on the “4”


Parveen Pannu (University of Delhi, India) Mobiles and socio-economic life of press workers in Delhi

  • Focus on urban growth in India and the rapid adoption of mobiles, especially among informal sector workers
  • Having clothes ironed is a central part of urban middle class India – the ironing business depends a lot on personal contact and good will (but there is also a press workers union)
  • Survey of households who did ironing work: c.65% had a family mobile ‘phone; cost of ‘phones was major factor influencing price (some received them from their customers); users of mobile ‘phones earned more than non-users, but cause/effect not known; usage – 38% social, 29% work related; most calls were received from the lady of the house who arranged collection/delivery of clothes and finding new companies; 50% were not into texting SMS messages (not comfortable because of English language texting)

Ishita Shruti (IIT Delhi) Remittance behaviour and doing business among Indian rural salesmen in Cambodia

  • New ICTs have played an important role in remittances (both economic and social) – focus of this ethnographic research is on rural salesmen mostly from UP
  • Internet based ‘phone calls are the cheapest means of communicating – so people use internet cafés/’booths’
  • ‘Agents’ are used to deliver remittances – informal network enabled through ‘phone calls (social capital plays an important role in delivering remittances)
  • Mobile ‘phones have also facilitated business, enabling salesmen to interact with family but also to make decisions about their businesses


Jean-Yves Hamel (UNDP) Public interests, private costs: civil society and the use of ICTs in Timor Leste

  • Placed emphasis on the notion of freedoms and the capability approach
  • Highlighted role of FDI from Telstra – supported by UN – and subsequent problems associated with its monopoly position. Monopolies are associated with high costs of ICT provision; regulators are unable to challenge these.
  • Noted the early use of ICTs from 1994 to enable communication of civil society ‘opposition’ with the rest of world
  • Key role of deep women’s networks – links to health organisations, scholarships, women’s rights groups
  • ICTs provide an important window on the world


Nimmi Rangaswamy (Microsoft Research India) The PC aided enterprise and recycling ICT

  • Role of ICTs in expanding small and micro-enterprises in Mumbai slums
  • ICTs can help promote skill building; business are organic and self-sustaining
  • Nice business ecology coming into play – capital, space, skills, hardware
  • Not simply assimilating technology for business, but also creating new systems and processes
  • “There is no ‘for D’ in it, because they are doing it themselves” – not sure I agree with this, surely this is itself a form of development

Jack Linchuan Qiu (Chinese University, Hong Kong) Working-class information society? Open questions about China and ICTs

  • Focused on the “information have-less”
  • Some statistics from China: internet users 2 m in 1998, but 298 m in 2008; 49% of internet users are now not college-educated – so Internet is being used much more widely across different sectors of the population
  • Private sector now accounts for more than half of urban population employment – so people have to find jobs, and this has been associated with a rapid increase in ICTs: does macro-empowermnet lead to (seemingly) micro-empowerment
  • Measuring information needs is complex; fundamental differences between information needs and wants.
  • Bottom of pyramid innovations are firstly social and only secondarily technological
  • Developing a new class analysis based on horizontal networking among workers
  • Chindia as a new path to development – a re-evaluation of labour-centred production


Otgonjargal Okhidoi (Educational Channel Television, Mongolia) Can technology level the inequality in education delivery? Blended technology based education program in Mongolia

  • Mongolian democritisation and economic liberalisation created freedom for flourishing media companies, mostly for profit commercial broadcasting – mostly focus on imported programmes (soaps, sumo…)
  • Educational Channel TV began only three years ago for public sector broadcasting (4-6 hours airtime a day on academic subjects; not for profit and one of only 2 nationwide broadcasters).  Then Internet service and cellphone messaging added on to make it more interactive and provide feedback (focus of project on English language and IT)
  • 93% of total population of Mongolia names TV as the key source of information
  • Inequality of access to education and quality of content – 66% of children live outside Ulaanbatar, and are poorly served by education
  • Almost all schools have computer labs set up by donor funding, and all are connected to the Internet – but there is not much good content available.  So, they used 20 minute TV programmes and followed up with work in class on Internet. Reported that impact on knowledge acquisition was positive, and it enhanced self-learning

S. Subash (National Academy of Agricultural Research Management) Knowledge empowerment of farmers through interactive web-module on dairy innovations

  • Use of ICTs for technology transfer agricultural extension in the field of dairying focusing particularly on web-module (Haryana and Tamil Nadu case study)
  • Training in ICT centres given to farmers; needs of farmers identified and web-based learning module given to them
  • Reported that farmers in Haryana has a 16% knowledge gain as a result of the intervention, and 28% gain in Tamil Nadu – although some concerns were expressed in questions about the impact of experimental design
  • Benefits also gained by extension workers
  • Users requested more interactivity and provision of real-time information; it is important to ensure that content is regularly updated; mobile alerts for farmers should also be introduced

Murali Shanmugavelan (Panos, London) Telecentres and public spaces

  • Substantial amount of recent support for telecentres in India – but “what information is reaching what communities?”
  • How do telecentres interact with village communities – are they reinforcing or changing social structures? Study of 12 telecentres of different kind.
  • ICTs can constrain or expand public spaces (four layers of public: physical, management, human as public, and services) – communication practices can create a chaos in traditional systems
  • Key factors: location influences accessibility; telecentres specifically designed for particular underprivileged groups such as dalits are exclusionary rather than ‘public’; management layer is very influential (recruiting women increases inclusivity); type of service delivery influences usage (and real needs of excluded users are not necessarily delivered); social and cultural factors constrain usage (discrimination against women and dalits; low participation of elderly and disabled communities)
  • There is a real need to map non-users and understand more about why they do not use ICTs – traditional hierarchies

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Filed under ICT4D, ICT4D conferences